Minus Shackles, Israeli Trial of Palestinian Lawmaker Opens

The defense attorney for Khalida Jarrar, who denies all charges, demands to know if material from her confiscated computers is being used as evidence.

Amira Hass
Amira Hass
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Khalida Jarrar in the courtroom of the Ofer detention facility, in May.
Khalida Jarrar in the courtroom of the Ofer detention facility, in May.Credit: AP
Amira Hass
Amira Hass

The trial of Palestinian Legislative Council member Khalida Jarrar opened on Monday morning at Israel's Ofer military prison.

Jarrar, who is affiliated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, was detained 80 days ago. Contrary to usual procedures in military courts, prison authorities allowed her daughters, who had come from abroad, to hug and kiss Jarrar, and also permitted them to sit in the first row in the courtroom. Also in contrast to regular custom, the shackles on Jarrar’s feet were removed during court proceedings.

As on earlier occasions during her detention, the trial attracted foreign diplomats, journalists and left-wing Israeli activists in addition to family members.

Jarrar is accused, among other charges, of being a member of and assisting an illegal organization (the PFLP), of participation in a gathering at which calls were issued to kidnap Israeli Defense Forces soldiers, of visiting Palestinians released from Israeli prisons, and of attending a book fair.

Her attorney, Mahmoud Hassan of the Ad-Dameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, told Judge Lt. Col. Zvi Heilbron that his client denies all charges against her.

Hassan asked that the prosecution declare that all evidence against Jarrar be presented in the case file before he gives detailed responses to the charges. He noted that on the night Jarrar was arrested on April 2, two laptop computers, an iPad and a hard drive were confiscated from her home, yet their contents don’t appear as part of the evidence against her. Thus, before giving initial responses, said Hassan, the defense must know if the prosecution is using material obtained from those computers, or whether they can be returned to his client.

The prosecutor, Captain Almaz Ayso, said that in addition to the evidence in the case that is open for perusal, there is also material which will be certified as confidential in the near future.

The judge instructed the prosecution to respond within a week to defense queries as to whether there is more evidence beyond the unclassified material, and told the defense to give its preliminary responses within two weeks.

The defense plans to call on the prosecution’s witnesses – young Palestinians who for the most part were arrested for short periods of time by Israeli authorities and have since been released.

Jarrar, 52, was initially put under administrative detention for six months, with the order signed by the commander of the IDF’s central district, Maj. Gen. Roni Numa. Her detention without trial was condemned around the world, which led to the issuance of an indictment.

IDF Judge Maj. Haim Balilti read out the charges against her on May 21 and ordered her release on bail, but the military prosecutor, Lt. Col. Morris Hirsch, appealed. Appeals Court Judge Lt. Col. Ron Atzmon upheld that request and ordered Jarrar to remain in custody until the end of proceedings. She is being held at the Sharon prison.

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